The Heffernan affair (I refuse to call it the Kirby affair) is useful for John Howard. It has shoved Hollingsworth and the children overboard lies off the front page by unleashing a media storm which will eventually die through lack of evidence. By that time, Howard’s recent troubles will be history (he hopes).

There will be collateral damage, of course: the standing of the High Court will be tarnished, possibly irrevocably, the vast mass of idiots who make up middle Australia will increasingly equate homosexuality with paedophilia, and a great judicial figure will undergo personal and public suffering -“ a fine reward for the work he has done in human rights and equality.

Howard is obviously prepared to allow this, in the interests of his own short-term convenience. Why? Because homosexuals are in a minority, and the us and them game is the only game in town for this government. Gay votes are not the ones which make any crucial difference to the Coalition at election time. And, in case we might have forgotten, there are people out there who hate us -“ some of whom are Liberal senators.

We’ve been set up. We can all have a great big slanging match, as Howard calls it, about a matter which centres around alleged misuse of a taxpayer-funded Commonwealth car, while we conveniently forget that this government gambled and lost five billion dollars of taxpayers’ money on the currency market.

And I gather some gay people even voted for them. Sad.

-” Phil Scott, Marrickville
Much reference has been made to Justice Michael Kirby’s distinguished judicial career and his contribution to public affairs. We should not overlook the important work he has done in HIV/AIDS. Kirby has always been a prominent international advocate for a rational approach to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He devised the AIDS paradox which has been adopted and proven in many countries in the protection of the vulnerable who are at risk and the defence of their basic human rights. During the first decade of the pandemic Kirby was a founding director of the World Health Organisation’s Global Program on AIDS. In the second decade he was instrumental in the promulgation of the United Nations’ International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights.
It is no coincidence that Foreign Minister Downer was one of the first people to come to his defence. Kirby frequently delivers thoughtful addresses to HIV/AIDS gatherings around the world, grappling with difficult, contemporary issues such as the ethical conduct of HIV vaccine trials. He participates in programs for the education of judges overseas about HIV/AIDS, drawing on the high regard in which he is held in many countries in our region. Most recently he has chaired for the UN Secretary-General a panel examining the issue of HIV testing of UN peacekeepers. It is a tragedy that the character of such a fine man has been besmirched without any evidence in the pursuit of a homophobic vendetta.

-” Adrian Lovney, president, AIDS Council of NSW
The fallout from the allegations against Justice Michael Kirby demands that the GLBT community pulls off its dancing shoes and takes a reality check.

Bouquets are due to the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby for its swift response and to the Sydney Star Observer for thinking outside the box and asking the Liberal member for Wentworth a few awkward questions.

However, the deafening silence from the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on the matter is regrettable. CEO Kelly Gardiner gushed in the SSO’s letters column that Mardi Gras was a fundamentally creative and political organisation. The Kirby affair is probably the gravest political issue we have faced for many years. Some leadership or engagement would be welcome. Perhaps it is time facts were faced and the pretence of Mardi Gras to any kind of coherent political lobby group was dropped.

Meanwhile Rome is burning. The Howard government, having tired of Aborigines and boat people, is now testing the waters to see just how much vilification of gays and lesbians the general community will tolerate. Am I alone in feeling uneasy and vulnerable?

-” Andrew Bell, Erskineville


By last week tabling letters from Senator Heffernan making further allegations, Prime Minister Howard did two things. He widened the ambit of the attack on Michael Kirby. For this he should be condemned.

But he also pointed up the fact that NSW has an age of consent for gay male sex which discriminates against us. The male prostitute who is said to have made a statutory declaration about meeting Kirby claims to have been 17 years and 6 months at the time.

If the parties had been heterosexual, there could be no complaint. The heterosexual age of consent is 16. But because of the fallacy that homosexuality = pedophilia, because people are so scared of homosexuality, because many still think boys can be persuaded to become homosexual, we still have the ludicrous position that male homosexual sex is illegal until the age of 18.

Already, the smear campaign against Michael Kirby is showing that we have many, many friends in heterosexual society who are prepared to come to the defence of an honourable man who has given so much to public life in Australia and around the world.

But let us also take the opportunity to point out the iniquity of the discriminatory age of consent to everyone we meet. Homophobes say we want a lower age of consent. What we are demanding is our right to an equal age of consent.

-” David Buchanan, Darlinghurst

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